£20m not £183m fine for BA after website security breach

Image of BA planes for decorative purposes

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You’ll recall back in July last year the ICO indicated it intended to fine British Airways £183m for a data breach it had suffered via its website whereby nearly 430,000 website users including customers and staff and the data stolen included names, addresses, credit card details (including security codes).

On the 16th October 2020 the ICO finally issued their fine of £20m against BA for the breach. This is obviously a million miles away from their original intention of £183m. The difference between the intention and the actual fine in the end is a result of the COVID-effect; it would have seemed unreasonable for the ICO to stick to its original fine given the difficulties the aviation industry are in since the Coronavirus pandemic, but it’s still the largest fine the ICO has ever issued (but still only the second fine under GDPR). The ICO said in a statement:

In June 2019 the ICO issued BA with a notice of intent to fine. As part of the regulatory process the ICO considered both representations from BA and the economic impact of COVID-19 on their business before setting a final penalty

The ICO investigation found that BA:

  • Was “processing a significant amount of personal data without adequate security measures in place
  • Took more than 2 months to spot a cyber-attack (in 2018) – in fact they only found out about it when someone told them
  • Could have taken measures to mitigate security risk including limiting access to applications, data and tools, rigorous testing including mock ups of cyber-security attacks and the use of multi-factor authentication

Full details can be found in the penalty notice.

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